When there is an emergency, Richmond County’s emergency service workers rush to the scene to provide the best service as speedy as possible. However, collecting the payments for some of those calls has been less than timely.
As a result, the department has $159,249 in uncollected fees, and that is just in the past six months.
It is a situation that EMS Chief Greg Baker is hoping to remedy.
At last month’s county supervisors’ meeting, Baker presented the problem to the board.
“[This] continues to loom over our heads. It continues to grow and grow and grow,” Baker said, adding that although 30 percent of the total outstanding amount is expected to be recovered through insurance, there is still a “pretty large, private pay revenue base” that remains uncollected.
“We pretty much have exhausted all of our billing offices, and the county resources, as far as avenues to try and collect this money,” Baker said.
He noted that some of his staffers have gone as far as sending collection notices, trying to call people, and knocking on doors in order to collect the unpaid debt.
In a recent interview, Baker said that while the 2011 regional switch to in-house billing has been a success, the main focus on his office was on patient care and not billing.
“But, there is a lot of money out there on the table right now and bill payments are what allows us to operate,” he said.
During the recent meeting, Baker laid out a plan that he said was the best way to recover the funds.
“I have talked to a couple of collection agencies, we have looked at several ways to possibly collect this money, there are really two ways that we can do it,” Baker said. “Either write it off as just lost revenue or send it off to a collection agency and see what they can do with it.”
Baker added that he had been vetting multiple companies, noting that they all follow state privacy laws, there are no binding contracts and that the county could cancel with any company within 30 days with just a written letter.
He said that most agencies ask for a minimum trial of six months in order to show results.
“Most companies charge 25 to 30 percent of what they collect, there are no upfront fees, it is what they get and bring back in collections,” Baker said. “[Getting] 75 percent of nothing that we are getting right now, I think anything at this particular point would be a big help.”
Legally, Baker said if the county chose to go this route, they could go as far back as 2008 on uncollected funds.
Baker is expected to present pick the three most qualified agencies to the board this month, from which one company will be selected.
He added that debtors will be able to set up payment plans that work within their budgets, so as to not place an undue burden on those already suffering from economic hardship.